Phil Walker is delighted to be back on stage in panto, although the circumstances under which his return came about are distinctly sad.
The funnyman behind the creation of Lytham’s Woofers comedy club is playing Silly Simon in the seasonal production of Robin Hood at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal until January 9.
He’s part of an all-star cast also featuring Blackpool’s Jodie Prenger, Matthew Kelly as the Dame, X Factor winner Matt Terry in the title role and former Coronation Street actor Tristian Gemmill as the Sheriff of Nottingham.
Phil had a lengthy stint in Lancashire pantos several years ago, in Blackburn initially, followed by several productions at Preston which he also wrote and directed, and was due to make a return to his 2019 venue in Darlington last year before the pandemic ruled that out.
Phil Walker in the Robin Hood panto in Nottingham with Matthew Kelly as the Dame
That didn’t happen, but his Nottingham opportunity came about in much sadder circumstances, following the sudden death in the autumn of comedian Phil Butler, who had been in line to play Silly Simon in Robin Hood.
“I was so sorry to hear about Phil – a dreadful shock for everyone in the business,” said Phil, who lives in Chorley.
“But they called me in to replace him and I joined rehearsals with what is a great company.
“It’s the biggest cast I have been involved with and everyone is thoroughly enjoying it.
“It’s just so good to be back in front of an audience after all those months of inactivity and everyone seems to be really making the most of the chance to escape from the real world for a couple of hours.
“All the Covid rules are in place and I did wonder about how the wearing of masks would affect the audience’s reactions, but the laughs are coming in all the right places and it’s going really well.
“I love panto – it gives a real buzz that certainly stays for a while after the curtain comes down. I have to go for a walk after a show just to ease myself down. It’s a great feeling.”
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